The massive amount of CO2 locked in our soil appears to be leaking.

A key greenhouse gas responsible for warming the planet, carbon dioxide, isn’t just hanging around in the air. It’s also locked up deep under the ground.

In the soil, stocks of carbon have built up over thousands of years, and levels have been kept relatively stable by the slow activity of bacteria which use carbon for energy. Scientists have long speculated over whether global warming could be affecting this process. A new study by Yale University suggests that it is.

The research paper, published this week in the journal Nature, states that climate change is ramping up the activity of all these bacteria, meaning that more carbon is starting to get released into the atmosphere.

That’s bad news for the planet, because as extensive research has shown, increasing levels of greenhouse gases are contributing to the Earth warming up.

It also says that the extra emissions from underground could be massive – totalling the amount that’s already released by the US, the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet.

In fact, the paper states that around 17 percent more emissions will be released into the atmosphere by 2050 than was previously predicted.

The majority of carbon emissions from soil come from the ground in colder places and at high latitudes, as well as places that are missing from previous research.

This is because carbon stores are greatest in places like the Arctic and sub-Arctic where soil is cold and often frozen. Microbes are less active when it’s cold, so carbon can build up and up under the surface over many centuries.

As things warm up, the activities of microbes increase, and that’s when more carbon dioxide escapes.

“The scary thing is, these cold regions are the places that are expected to warm the most under climate change,” Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, said in a statement.

The results are based on an analysis of 20 years worth of data on stored soil carbon in different regions.

The team predicted that for every single-degree Celsius of warming, about 30 petagrams – that’s around 30,000,000,000,000 kilograms – of carbon will be released from the soil. That’s the same weight as about 190,000,000 blue whales.

The Paris Climate Agreement has the goal of not allowing the earth to warm over 2 degrees Celsius, but even that increase would emit a colossal amount of carbon dioxide.

Soil carbon losses are not the only response to global warming. Several other biological processes such as accelerated plant growth could have a positive or negative effect on the amount of carbon released.

“Getting a handle on these kinds of feedbacks is essential if we’re going to make meaningful projections about future climate conditions,” said Crowther.

“Only then can we generate realistic greenhouse gas emission targets that are effective at limiting climate change.”

Researchers find tie between global precipitation and global warming.

The rain in Spain may lie mainly on the plain, but the location and intensity of that rain is changing not only in Spain but around the globe.

A new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists shows that observed changes in global (ocean and land) precipitation are directly affected by human activities and cannot be explained by natural variability alone. The research appears in the Nov. 11 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Emissions of heat-trapping and ozone-depleting gases affect the distribution of precipitation through two mechanisms. Increasing temperatures are expected to make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier (thermodynamic changes); and changes in will push storm tracks and subtropical dry zones toward the poles.

“Both these changes are occurring simultaneously in global precipitation and this behavior cannot be explained by natural variability alone,” said LLNL’s lead author Kate Marvel. “External influences such as the increase in are responsible for the changes.”

The team compared climate model predications with the Global Precipitation Climatology Project’s global observations, which span from 1979-2012, and found that natural variability (such as El Niños and La Niñas) does not account for the changes in global precipitation patterns. While natural fluctuations in climate can lead to either intensification or poleward shifts in precipitation, it is very rare for the two effects to occur together naturally.

“In combination, manmade increases in greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depletion are expected to lead to both an intensification and redistribution of global precipitation,” said Céline Bonfils, the other LLNL author. “The fact that we see both of these effects simultaneously in the observations is strong evidence that humans are affecting global precipitation.”

Marvel and Bonfils identified a fingerprint pattern that characterizes the simultaneous response of precipitation location and intensity to external forcing.

“Most previous work has focused on either thermodynamic or dynamic changes in isolation. By looking at both, we were able to identify a pattern of precipitation change that fits with what is expected from human-caused climate change,” Marvel said.

By focusing on the underlying mechanisms that drive changes in global precipitation and by restricting the analysis to the large scales where there is confidence in the models’ ability to reproduce the current climate, “we have shown that the changes observed in the satellite era are externally forced and likely to be from man,” Bonfils said.

Should Factory-Farmed Foods Be Labeled?


A growing number of organic consumers, natural health advocates and climate hawks are taking a more comprehensive look at the fundamental causes of global warming.

It has led them to this sobering conclusion: Our modern energy-, chemical- and GMO-intensive industrial food and farming systems are the major cause of man-made global warming.

How did they reach this conclusion? First, by taking a more inclusive look at the scientific data on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – not just carbon dioxide (CO2), but also methane and nitrous oxide.

Next, by doing a full accounting of the fossil fuel consumption and emissions of the entire industrial food and farming cycle, including inputs, equipment, production, processing, distribution, heating, cooling and waste. And finally, by factoring in the indirect impacts of contemporary agriculture, which include deforestation and wetlands destruction.

When you add it all up, the picture is clear: Contemporary agriculture is burning up our planet, and factory farms or, in industry lingo, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), play a key role in this impending disaster.

The Global Impact of Factory Farming

The science behind global warming is complex. Without question, coal plants, tar sands and natural gas fracking have contributed heavily to greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, the major cause of global warming. We must unite to shut down these industries.

Similarly, consumer overconsumption of fossil fuels represents another big piece of the climate-crisis equation. We absolutely must rethink, retrofit and/or redesign our gas-guzzling cars and our energy-inefficient buildings, if we want to reduce fossil fuel use by 90 percent over the next few decades.

But we also must address the environmental impact of factory farming.

Today, nearly 65 billion animals worldwide, including cows, chickens and pigs, are crammed into CAFOs. These animals are literally imprisoned and tortured in unhealthy, unsanitary and unconscionably cruel conditions.

Sickness is the norm for animals who are confined rather than pastured, and who eat genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans, rather than grass and forage as nature intended.

To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding and lack of vitamin D, animals are fed a steady diet of antibiotics. Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to the environment when they run off into our lakes, rivers, aquifers and drinking water.

How Factory Farms Affect Global Climate

CAFOs contribute directly to global warming by releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – more than the entire global transportation industry. The air at some factory farm test sites in the US is dirtier than in America’s most polluted cities.

According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, including 37 percent of methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions.

The methane releases from billions of imprisoned animals on factory farms are 70 times more damaging per ton to the earth’s atmosphere than CO2.

Indirectly, factory farms contribute to climate disruption by their impact on deforestation and draining of wetlands, and because of the nitrous oxide emissions from huge amounts of nitrate fertilizers used to grow the genetically engineered corn and soy fed to animals raised in CAFOs.

Nitrous oxide pollution is even worse than methane – 200 times more damaging per ton than CO2. And just as animal waste leaches antibiotics and hormones into ground and water, pesticides and fertilizers also eventually find their way into our waterways, further damaging the environment.

CAFOs — A Major Contributor to Poor Health

Factory farms aren’t just a disaster for the environment. They’re also ruining our health. A growing chorus of scientists and public health advocates warn that the intensive and reckless use of antibiotics and growth hormones leads to factory-farmed food1 that contains antibiotic-resistant pathogens, drug residues such as hormones and growth promoters, and “bad fats.”

Yet despite these health and environmental hazards, the vast majority of consumers don’t realize that nearly 95 percent of the meat, dairy and eggs sold in the U.S. come from CAFOs. Nor do most people realize that CAFOs represent a corporate-controlled system characterized by large-scale, centralized, low profit-margin production, processing and distribution systems.

There’s an alternative: A socially responsible, small-scale system created by independent producers and processors focused on local and regional markets. This alternative produces high-quality food, and supports farmers who produce healthy, meat, eggs and dairy products using humane methods. And it’s far easier on the environment.

Why We Need to Label Factory-Farmed Food

Consumers can boycott food products from factory farms and choose the more environmentally-friendly alternatives. But first, we have to regain the right to know what’s in our food. And that means mandatory labeling, not only of genetically engineered foods, but of the 95 percent of non-organic, non-grass-fed meat, dairy and eggs that are produced on the hellish factory farms that today dominate US food production.

In 2013, a new alliance of organic and natural health consumers, animal welfare advocates, anti-GMO and climate-change activists will tackle the next big food labeling battle: meat, eggs and dairy products from animals raised on factory farms, or CAFOs.

This campaign will start with a massive program to educate consumers about the negative impacts of factory farming on the environment, on human health and on animal welfare, and then move forward to organize and mobilize millions of consumers to demand labels on beef, pork, poultry and dairy products derived from these unhealthy and unsustainable so-called “farming” practices.

Opponents and skeptics will ask, “What about feeding the world?” Contrary to popular arguments, factory farming is not a cheap, efficient solution to world hunger. Feeding huge numbers of confined animals actually uses more food, in the form of grains that could feed humans, than it produces. For every 100 food calories of edible crops fed to livestock, we get back just 30 calories in the form of meat and dairy. That’s a 70-percent loss.

With the earth’s population predicted to reach nine billion by mid-century, the planet can no longer afford this reckless, unhealthy and environmentally disastrous farming system. We believe that once people know the whole truth about CAFOs they will want to make healthier, more sustainable food choices. And to do that, we’ll have to fight for the consumer’s right to know not only what is in our food, but where our food comes from.

Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on

“Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn’t required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn’t have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.

Doesn’t it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.

I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers.”

Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn’t have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let’s not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.

  • No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
  • If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
  • For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
  • Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.

About the Author

Ronnie Cummins is the founder and Director of the Organic Consumers Association. He has been a writer and activist since the 1960s, with massive expertise in human rights, anti-war, anti-nuclear, consumer, labor, environmental, and sustainable agricultural areas.  He is the author of several published articles, a children’s book series called Children of the World, and Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers.

About the Organic Consumers Association

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots 501(c)3 public interest organization promoting health, justice, and sustainability. It prides itself as the only organization in the United States focused on promoting the views and interests of the country’s estimated 76 million organic and socially responsible consumers.

The OCA participates in the important issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children’s health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability, and other key topics. The Organic Consumers Fund, a 501(c)4, is the OCA’s grassroots action and lobbying arm.


Internet emits 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Has the Time Come to Try Geoengineering?

Earth’s average temperature has warmed by 0.8 degree Celsius over the last 100 years or so. The reason is increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. The concentration of CO2 has now reached 394 parts-per-million in the air we breathe—and would be even higher, roughly 450 ppm, if the oceans weren’t absorbing a good deal of the CO2 we create by burning fossil fuels, clearing forests and the like.

The basic physics have been understood for 150 years. Global warming has been observed for at least 30 years. International negotiations to restrain greenhouse gas emissions have been ongoing since 1992. And yet, other than during economic recessions, emissions have steadily marched up. If global warming is a problem—one likely already producing weird weather, rising seas and extinctions, among other effects that could be considered dangerous—we are not addressing it.

So is it time to consider something a little more radical? Specifically, the family of ideas for restraining climate change captured under the rubric of geoengineering? Or, as the U.K.’s Royal Society puts it: the deliberate, large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment. As the guest editors of a special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A note: “Geoengineering is no longer the realm of science fiction.”

The science fiction-y schemes vary from proposals to block out the sun via mimicking volcanic eruptions to massive machines the size of power-plant cooling towers to strip CO2 from the air at an accelerated rate. Or maybe you prefer creating CO2-storing peatlands by raising water tables, or engineering Sphagnum moss to better fend off microbial decomposition when dead. While we’re at it, the crops that cover 11 percent of Earth’s continental surface could be engineered to reflect more sunlight, or the ocean near Antarctica could be fertilized with iron to promote diatom blooms that ultimately bury carbon at sea.

In the end, there is a set amount of greenhouse gases that can be dumped into the atmosphere if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. Scientists’ best guess is that we can emit 1,000 petagrams, or 1 trillion metric tons, of carbon if we want to stay below 2 degrees Celsius of warming (less than the amount of warming that characterized the shift from the ice-ridden Pleistocene to the milder epoch that birthed human civilization known as the Holocene). We have already emitted more than half of that and will emit the rest of that limit within a few decades if we continue to burn fossil fuels, clear forests and such at anything like present rates.

As climate modeler Ken Caldeira of Stanford University discusses in the September issue of Scientific American in his article “The Great Climate Experiment,” we are now effectively setting the temperature of the planet for the next several millenn

If the world collectively fails to restrain pollution, then we might need to deploy geoengineering techniques in a hurry to prevent catastrophic climate change. So doesn’t it make sense to investigate the promise of various techniques promise and perils? This is not a new idea—geoengineering hit President Lyndon Johnson’s desk in the 1960s along with a report on climate change that suggested he might deal with the problem by spreading reflective particles on the oceans—just a relatively unexplored one.

All this points to a more fundamental philosophical question about geoengineering, which, as the name implies, is global in scope: Who controls the thermostat? If greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to turn Earth into Venus, technical remedies are quite sufficient to induce another Ice Age. In fact, weather control was first explored as a weapon during the Cold War. The barriers to entry are relatively low: an island nation, say, with a battery of big guns could start shooting sulphates into the air to block sunlight and cool the climate until somebody stopped them. Or sulphates could be used regionally to stave off, say, a heat wave. Scientists have already begun the task of assessing which method (existing aircraft or, maybe, tethered balloons) and particles might serve best (it’s not sulphate, it’s diamonds or, even better, the minerals you find in your sunblock!) Bonus: these other particles might let the sky stay blue rather than the hazy white expected from stratospheric sulphates, though the impacts of such particles falling out of the sky and covering the planet are unknown.

Such schemes have an apocalyptic feel and bring up images of Dr. Strangelove or other mad scientists. As one respondent to a survey of public attitudes toward geoengineering in England, Scotland and Wales in 2010 put it: “I don’t think you should mess about with the climate… I think that’s very dodgy to be honest.” Of course, we already are messing about with the climate. And that means the question that can’t be dodged is: What are we going to do about it?

Source: Scientific American